Not the Faintest Trace, Wendy M. Wilson

Review Written By
Karen Chisholm

The first book in the Sergeant Frank Hardy series, NOT THE FAINTEST TRACE is an historical crime fiction novel, set in New Zealand in around 1869-1877. Based around the Taranaki Wars, a land war from New Zealand's past that I will confess to having known absolutely nothing about, the novel uses events with the War as impetus for Frank Hardy leaving the military, becoming instead a mail coach driver and part-time private investigator. In a small Scandinavian settlement, two men go missing, and Hardy has to confront the past, the present, and his possible future.

There's a lot going on in the setup in this novel, and the history lesson here is interesting, albeit delivered in a lot of large info dumps and long and involved descriptive passages which does mean that plot advancements suffers as a result. 

There are two more books available in this series (RECALLED TO LIFE aka WHEN WE PEOPLE THE LAND and DEAD SHOT) as of reading this one, and it feels very much like a group of novels that's heading into territory that would appeal to romance / history lovers who prefer the crime elements more muted. 

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In a New Zealand you never knew existed, the after effects of the brutal Land Wars are still being felt in a small Scandinavian settlement, from which two young men have disappeared without a trace. 

After arriving too late to stop the beheading of a rebel Maori chief by colonial troops looking for a bounty, and witnessing other events that sicken him, Sergeant Frank Hardy leaves the military to look for a place where he can carve out a life for himself. 

Eight years after the war has ended, Hardy works as a mail coach driver and part-time private investigator, but can’t forget the horrors he witnessed during the Land Wars. When he is attacked by a vengeful Maori warrior while searching for the bodies of two missing Scandinavian men, he begins to wonder if his past has caught up with him. And to complicate things, a Scandinavian road worker is out to get him and the Armed Constabulary are looking at him suspiciously.

Will his growing love for a young Danish woman bring him peace, or will he suffer the same fate as other men from his regiment, the 57th Regiment of Foot, known as the Die Hards? And will he ever return the bodies of the missing Scandi men to their grieving families?

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